A Suet Candle Shines as Part of Cleveland’s Culinary Scene

Cleveland skyline (photo courtesy of ThisisCleveland.com)

Cleveland skyline (photo courtesy of ThisisCleveland.com)

I liked Cleveland so much last time around, I recently returned to the city for another 24 hours of eating. After two flapjacks, two coffees, two 2-1/2 hour meals, and two doughy delights immediately after airport arrival, I continue to be impressed with Cleveland’s culinary scene. Here’s my meal report, complete with a food-themed art exhibit at a place that’s not the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Dinner 1: Spice Kitchen + Bar

My first stop from the airport, en route to downtown, was Spice Kitchen + Bar in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. All restaurants should be doing farm-to-table cuisine; in the case of Spice, the goal is for 80% of the ingredients to come from sustainable farms within 100 miles of Cleveland. And, actually, some of the ingredients in your food and drinks come from Spice’s very own farmland. There’s an immediate good vibe to the place, from the friendly bar area upon entry to the romantic dining room adjoining it. The menu includes a daily special that’s truly seasonable and sustainable, though I went for a couple of dishes that are more mainstay delights: mushroom beignets and rabbit ravioli.

Spice Kitchen + Bar's mushroom beignets (dusted with porcini powder) with honey goat cheese crème fraîche

Spice Kitchen + Bar’s mushroom beignets (dusted with porcini powder) with honey goat cheese crème fraîche

Spice's arugula salad with 6-minute egg, lardons, torn croutons, and scallion vinaigrette

Spice’s arugula salad with 6-minute egg, lardons, torn croutons, and scallion vinaigrette

Spice's rabbit ravioli with chanterelles, goat cheese, squash, pine nuts, shishito peppers, and herbs

Spice’s rabbit ravioli with chanterelles, goat cheese, squash, pine nuts, shishito peppers, and herbs

Inside Spice Kitchen + Bar

Inside Spice Kitchen + Bar

Breakfast: Jack Flaps

Across from Spice Kitchen + Bar is Happy Dog, tempting to try for its wild array of hot dogs. (It’s like the Voodoo Doughnut of hot dogs, with toppings that range from SpaghettiOs to Froot Loops to Chunky peanut butter.) I was too full after dinner for a frankfurter, but the next morning I made it to the Ohio City neighborhood to try sister restaurant Jack Flaps. Flying solo, it was tough to decide between the big-ticket dishes in both the sweet and savory menus, but ultimately I had to go for a namesake item—though I did sneak in a side dish to add a savory element. Jack Flaps offers a fun concept, for sure.

Candied jalapeno pancakes with white chocolate sauce and salted caramel coffee crumb (a little dry, perhaps because the pancakes are a little thick)

Jack Flaps’ candied jalapeno pancakes with white chocolate sauce and salted caramel coffee crumb (a little dry, perhaps because the pancakes are a little thick)

Jack Flaps' root vegetable hash

Jack Flaps’ root vegetable hash

Coffee 1: Phoenix Coffee

With two big meals still to go, I knew the day called for coffee, and it was easy to make a stop at the nearby Phoenix Coffee in the Ohio City neighborhood. A Cleveland roaster for over 20 years, Phoenix actually has four locations in the city. I’m pleased to see pour-over technique prevalent in Cleveland (there’s even a place called “Pour Cleveland,”), especially as my Seattle neighborhood only has one place for pour-over, which I avoid due to its religious connections. Phoenix has a relaxed atmosphere which invites lingering, perhaps close to the record player where you’ll find vinyl spinning.

Coffee bar at Phoenix Coffee (where I enjoyed a Guatemala Antigua Los Volcanes, slightly citrusy and syrupy)

Coffee bar at Phoenix Coffee (where I enjoyed a Guatemala Antigua Los Volcanes, slightly citrusy and syrupy)

Turntable in the corner at Phoenix Coffee

Turntable in the corner at Phoenix Coffee

Coffee 2: Rising Star Coffee Roasters

Life Phoenix Coffee, Rising Star Coffee Roasters was recently cited in Travel + Leisure magazine in making Cleveland one of America’s top coffee cities. While there’s a new location in Little Italy, I went right from Phoenix to the original Rising Star right in Ohio City (or more specifically Hingetown) for my second cup of coffee of the day. Rising Star has a different feel, with more of an open, “true roastery” scene showing off big bags of beans, roasting apparatus on the floor, and a collection of coffee-making equipment at the counter. You can geek out with AeroPress and siphon preparations, but pour-over is what seems to be most popular here for coffee.

Making my pour-over at Rising Star Coffee Roasters

Making my pour-over at Rising Star Coffee Roasters

Finished product: my Guatemala Finca Aragon (also syrupy, and slightly sweet) at Rising Star

Finished product: my Guatemala Finca Aragon (also syrupy, and slightly sweet) at Rising Star

Lunch: Trentina

Last trip to Cleveland, I was so thoroughly impressed with my dinner at The Greenhouse Tavern that I proclaimed it one of the most memorable meals of 2013. I was therefore excited to try Jonathon Sawyer’s newest restaurant, Trentina, which is based on the food of the Trento region of northern Italy. I love that Trentina’s lunch menu offers a sense of the dinner experience. Oh, there are sandwiches, but you can also have a multi-course meal that runs from primos to pastas to entrees to desserts—and more. My lunch was an extended affair as Sawyer and Matt Danko served up a superb feast that will make Trentina one of the most memorable meals of 2014. In fact, recalling a few years back when The New York Times called the Willows Inn one of “10 restaurants worth a plane ride,” I’ll go on record here as saying that I believe Jonathon Sawyer is currently one of the top chefs worth a plane ride in the United States.

Foraged food (including mushrooms in a siphon) greets me at Trentina

Foraged food (including mushrooms in a siphon) greets me at Trentina

Assagio (bites before you eat) plate at Trentina: carne salata (house-made), speck, Ludlow cheese from Blue Jacket Dairy, Charloe Cheese from Canal Junction, crusto di polenta with house butter and Ohio egg bottarga, charloe cheese from canal junction, pickled turnips, and pickled swiss chard stems

Assagio (“bites before you eat”) plate at Trentina: carne salata (house-made), speck, Ludlow cheese from Blue Jacket Dairy, Charloe Cheese from Canal Junction, crusto di polenta with house butter and Ohio egg bottarga, pickled turnips, and pickled swiss chard stems

An experiment ahead of Ferran Adrià's visit: spit-roasted and seared maitake garnished with trentigrana, plus dashi made from house-cured fish sausage and dried wild foraged maitake mushrooms

An experiment ahead of Ferran Adrià’s visit: spit-roasted and seared maitake garnished with trentigrana, plus dashi made from house-cured fish sausage and dried foraged maitake mushrooms

Trentina's "On the Rise Bakery's bread plate" which comes with cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, whipped prosciutto bianco, and an edible beef suet candle

Trentina’s “On the Rise Bakery’s bread plate” which comes with cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, whipped prosciutto bianco, and an edible beef suet candle

Roasted carrot caponata with raisins, fennel seed, roasted red peppers, pine nuts, and vinegar

Roasted carrot caponata with raisins, fennel seed, roasted red peppers, pine nuts, and vinegar

Heirloom tomato and basil bucatini with tomato butter, Soave Classico, and parmesan

Heirloom tomato and basil bucatini with tomato butter, Soave Classico, and parmesan

Cavatappi & cheese: Trentino-style mac & cheese with roasted onion and new potato

Cavatappi & cheese: Trentino-style mac & cheese with roasted onion and new potato

Gnudi (made with ricotta and piped into semolina) with pickled and seared artichoke hearts, maitakes, and mushroom catsup

Gnudi (made with ricotta piped into semolina) with pickled and seared artichoke hearts, maitakes, and mushroom catsup

Trentina's "Beasts + Birds Roasted with Embers" here is Ohio CAB strip loin grilled over hay, with roasted celery root, braised celery stalk, and celery leaf

Trentina’s “Beasts + Birds Roasted with Embers” here is Ohio CAB strip loin grilled over hay, with roasted celery root, braised celery stalk, and celery leaf

Between a palate-cleansing elderflower and rosemary sorbet topped with yogurt and a spiced chocolate macaron was this panna cotta with brown butter solids accompanied by pickled and fresh pears, gooseberries, orange zest, and torn bread fried in olive oil

Between a palate-cleansing elderflower and rosemary sorbet topped with yogurt and a spiced chocolate macaron was this panna cotta with brown butter solids accompanied by pickled and fresh pears, gooseberries, orange zest, and torn bread fried in olive oil

Art break: MOCA Cleveland and the Ferran Adrià exhibit

One of the nice things about being at Trentina (aside from watching Case Western Reserve University guides walking backward while leading tours for prospective students and their parents) is that you’re just steps away from the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. The building itself is architecturally interesting, but any food lover should go now to see “Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity.” This marks the first time that a major museum has focused on the visualization and drawing practices of Adrià, famed chef of the (recently closed) elBulli restaurant in Barcelona who’s been called “the king of molecular gastronomy.” The exhibit features sketches, diagrams, notes, and more that give insight into Adrià’s innovative thinking; I found myself transfixed by his thoughts about “tart creativity” involving puff pastry and “400 fruits from the Amazon that have never been used.”

Ferran Adrià, "Theory of Culinary Evolution," 2013, crayon, paint stick and colored pencil, from a series of sixty drawings, each: 11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches (courtesy of elBulli Foundation)

Ferran Adrià, “Theory of Culinary Evolution,” 2013, crayon, paint stick and colored pencil, from a series of sixty drawings, each: 11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches (courtesy of elBulli Foundation)

Ferran Adrià, plating diagram, ca. 2003-2004, colored pen on graph paper (courtesy of elBulli Foundation)

Ferran Adrià, plating diagram, ca. 2003-2004, colored pen on graph paper (courtesy of elBulli Foundation)

Ferran Adrià installation (courtesy of MOCA Cleveland)

Ferran Adrià installation (courtesy of MOCA Cleveland)

Dinner 2: EDWINS

I’m a big fan of Seattle’s FareStart, and being an educator myself, I was thrilled to see a similar operation in Cleveland called EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute. Brandon Chrostowski founded EDWINS as a place where formerly incarcerated men and women develop culinary and hospitality skills so that they can find employment (and purpose), helping them reenter society without returning to a life of crime. The reward for their study and service: the promise of a high rate of placement into successful jobs in the field. The reward for diners at EDWINS restaurant: a delightful culinary experience featuring some classical French preparations (for example, see my pressed duck, done tableside…and then learn more about this fascinating dish) in a fine dining atmosphere that’s got a feeling of joy and notes of fun—such as the soulful sounds of the likes of Marvin Gaye playing in the spirited dining room.

EDWINS' amuse bouche: oven-roasted salmon with horseradish crust and dill-cucumber sauce

EDWINS’ amuse bouche: oven-roasted salmon with horseradish crust and dill-cucumber sauce

EDWINS' salad of endive, local field greens, roasted apples, shiitake mushrooms, almonds, and foie gras with apple cider vinaigrette

EDWINS’ salad of endive, local field greens, roasted apples, shiitake mushrooms, almonds, and foie gras with apple cider vinaigrette

Grilled seafood sausage with lobster, white fish, scallops, shrimp, and pine nuts with shallot beurre blanc

Grilled seafood sausage with lobster, white fish, scallops, shrimp, and pine nuts with shallot beurre blanc

Pressing of duck carcass to draw blood for...

Pressing of duck carcass to draw blood for…

...EDWINS' pressed duck with blood sauce

…EDWINS’ pressed duck with blood sauce

Cheese course

Cheese course from the impressive cheese cart

Grand Marnier soufflé, accompanied by Grand Marnier

Grand Marnier soufflé, accompanied by Grand Marnier

Pressed duck preparation, tableside

Pressed duck preparation, tableside

Bananas Foster at EDWINS, tableside

Bananas Foster at EDWINS, tableside

Hotel: Aloft Cleveland Downtown

Thanks to Aloft Cleveland Downtown and Destination Cleveland for hosting and assisting with my stay. This was my first time in an Aloft property, and I enjoyed the contemporary feel of the guestroom. Aloft’s location is ideal for walking to downtown’s dining scene, as well as to the sports venues, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and shopping areas. It’s also well-situated for drives to other attractions both east and west. Clean, comfortable, and convenient!

Aloft Cleveland Downtown (© Aloft)

Aloft Cleveland Downtown (© Aloft)

Guestroom at Aloft Cleveland Downtown (© ThisisCleveland.com – Scott Meivogel)

Guestroom at Aloft Cleveland Downtown (© ThisisCleveland.com – Scott Meivogel)

Spice Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Jack Flaps on Urbanspoon

Phoenix Coffee on Urbanspoon

Rising Star Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon

Trentina on Urbanspoon

Edwins Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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One Response to “A Suet Candle Shines as Part of Cleveland’s Culinary Scene”

  1. December 22, 2014 at 2:45 am #

    Thanks for sharing!

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